NATIONAL DRINKING WATER
Mark your calendars for the week of May 3-9, 1992, as this has been designated National Drinking Water Week. This year's theme is "Give Drinking Water A Hand" and is represented by the Blue Thumb. The Blue Thumb is a way of encouraging us all to care for water the way we should care for the earth -- to nurture and protect it, not only as a critical part of nature's ecosystem, but as the fluid that maintains our lives.
National Drinking Water Week programs result from the coordinated efforts by the National Drinking Water Week Coalition, which includes the Extension arm of the USDA, the American Water Works Association, the American Ground Water Trust, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the American Water Works Association Research Foundation. The purpose of the campaign is to encourage people to get involved in water decisions at both the community level and the personal level. Blue Thumb activities are planned across the country and in Canada.
Local community events include:
To learn more about these and other water topics, order Blue Thumb
Basics. This free brochure is available through selected local water
suppliers or you may contact the National Drinking Water Week
Headquarters, Public Information Department, American Water Works
Association, 666 West Quincy Ave., Denver, CO 80235.
(Adapted from National Drinking Water Week Coalition)
FROM THE EDITOR
Water is the lifeblood of Idaho, and water quality is an important part of Extension's effort in our state. Our traditional industries -- agriculture, forestry, and mining -- are all water-dependent. Even a large portion of tourist revenues in Idaho are tied to attractions using water. We must protect water quality to maintain our high standard of living and uniquely rich quality of life in Idaho.
Extension has a tradition of working in areas that affect water quality. For instance, Cooperative Extension System employees provide accurate fertilizer recommendations, pesticide information, and irrigation management recommendations based on the latest research. These have a positive impact on water quality.
WATER QUALITY UPDATE begins its second year with an expanded mission and clientele. This newsletter is now distributed to College of Agriculture faculty, industry, local governments, Soil Conservation Districts, commodity commissions, and to other agencies. Our mission is to provide relevant water quality information as it concerns crop management, livestock/range management, house and garden chemicals, youth programs, domestic water, and forestry and woodlot management.
IFB WELLHEAD SURVEY -- BONNER
On Nov. 12, 1991, Bonner County became the 11th county in Idaho to take part in the wellhead survey program coordinated by the Idaho Farm Bureau (IFB). Although coordinated by the IFB this program was truly a cooperative effort as five different government agencies and the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation united to make the program a success. The Idaho Department of Agriculture (IDA), Soil Conservation Service (SCS), and the University of Idaho Cooperative Extension System (UI-CES) assisted with program logistics, sample bottle distribution, and dissemination of information. The University of Idaho College of Agriculture's Analytical Laboratory (UI-LAB) had major roles in planning and designing the quality assurance phase of the analytical part of the program and analyzed all samples for nitrates. The Idaho Division of Environmental Quality (DEQ) designed the quality assurance plan for the field effort, the questionnaire, and sampling procedures for the public.
Quality control in this sampling project was the top priority. Blind spiked samples and blanks were randomly dispersed with farmer-provided samples to assure top quality. In addition, in some cases, duplicate farm wellhead samples were included. Nitrates were determined on water samples by the UI-LAB in Moscow. After collection, a preservative was added to the sample before shipment to Moscow. Samples were run in the laboratory within 72 hours after collection. The most modern analytical techniques and equipment were used in this operation. A high degree of confidence should be placed on the numbers obtained from these samples.
In Bonner County 65 private wellhead samples were collected from farmers and rural residents. None of the sampled wells in Bonner County contained nitrate-N levels greater than 10 ppm, which is the National Public Health Service drinking water standard. Over 86 percent of the sampled wells contained less than 2.0 ppm nitrate-N.
A total of 1,550 samples from private wells and 1,076 control and quality assurance samples have now been collected from 11 Idaho counties. Over the next 12 months this program will be brought to several more counties. UI-CES has and will continue to prepare county by county brochures that provide the data from each sampling event as they occur. Brochures can be obtained directly from the individual county extension offices.
BMPs FOR NITROGEN
Over 90 percent of the drinking water consumed in Idaho is supplied by groundwater. Because this resource is so vital to Idahoans BMPs for agricultural management have and are becoming more important. Nitrate is the most common groundwater pollutant in Idaho and in the United States. Nitrates in groundwater can originate from many sources including agriculture, septic tanks, landfills, lawns and gardens, industry, and municipalities.
Federal and state drinking standards dictate that drinking water should not contain more than 10 ppm NO3-N.
In rural areas of Idaho potentially significant sources of nitrogen for groundwater contamination include nitrogen fertilizers, private septic systems, livestock feedlots, barnyards, and legumes used as plow down green manures.
Specific types of BMPs for N fertilizer management that should be
employed in many areas of Idaho include:
SNAKE-PAYETTE RIVERS WATER QUALITY
HYDROLOGIC UNIT PROJECT UPDATE
The Cooperative Extension System (CES), Soil Conservation Service (SCS), and the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS) are co-leaders in a five-year water quality project located in southwestern Idaho. Extension hired Tim Stieber as an agricultural agent with emphasis in water quality to provide leadership for CES's portion of this project. Tim Stack is an SCS employee and is serving as overall project leader. Stack will have technical responsibilities, while Stieber will coordinate educational efforts associated with this project.
The Snake-Payette Rivers Water Quality Hydrologic Unit Project is one of 74 projects funded nationally by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In addition to CES, SCS, and ASCS leadership, the Idaho Division of Environmental Quality will coordinate all water monitoring activities. The Idaho Department of Agriculture, Idaho Department of Water Resources, and the Idaho Soil Conservation Commission will also be active project participants. The Canyon, Gem, Payette, and Weiser River Soil Conservation Districts will be local partners in this effort.
All or parts of Canyon, Gem, Payette, and Washington counties comprise the Snake-Payette Water Quality Hydrologic Unit. Although the selected study site is relatively small, it is anticipated that technology development efforts can be transferred elsewhere on the Snake River Plain in both Idaho and Oregon.
Stieber reports that project goals for 1992 have been divided into the following four components:
FARM*A*SYST PROGRAM GOES
Farm*A*Syst is a new groundwater pollution prevention tool developed for farmstead and rural residents. This program, which was piloted in Wisconsin and Minnesota, has received funding from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), USDA-Extension Service, and the USDA-SCS to expand the project nationally. The Farm*A*Syst assessment system works by using a series of 12 worksheets to evaluate the risk of well water contamination from farm and rural activities. This groundwater protection tool is especially important because the majority of the nation's rural residents use groundwater to supply their drinking water and farm needs. The Farm*A*Syst program also includes educational materials to aid farmers in conducting farm inventories and evaluating contamination sources. Assessment results are then used to develop a voluntary action plan to reduce groundwater pollution risks.
Farm*A*Syst assessments can be done individually or in group-education sessions. Group sessions normally involve local professionals and agency technical staff who then assist farm operators in choosing a course for corrective action. Farm*A*Syst is a unique program because it examines a wide range of potential contaminants and remedies in a comprehensive, easy-to-use format. This establishes a method to allow farmers and rural residents to assess pollution risks associated with their own farms and home sites and to take decisive action to preserve the quality of their drinking water.
A cooperative team program has been set up and staffed by EPA, Cooperative Extension System (CES), and SCS to provide guidelines and educational support to states interested in starting their own Farm*A*Syst programs. Inquiries have been received from more than 40 states. The Farm*A*Syst program will probably be implemented through cooperative efforts between the SCS and CES in the Idaho Snake River Plain Demonstration Project in Cassia and Minidoka counties.
As part of the Farm*A*Syst program adaptation in states such as Idaho, the staff will:
IRON AND MANGANESE IN HOUSEHOLD
Both iron (Fe) and manganese (Mn) are non-hazardous, nuisance chemicals in water that can cause characteristic reddish-brown or black stains on clothes or household fixtures. They are common household water contaminants with no known adverse human health effects at levels found in drinking water. They are classified under guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protections Agency (EPA) as "Secondary Contaminants." Secondary standards apply to chemicals in water causing offensive taste, odor, color, corrosion, foaming, or staining. Drinking water standards for iron and manganese are 0.3 and 0.05 ppm, respectively. These standards can be used to evaluate the water quality of individual wells or springs.
Iron and manganese are elements commonly found in the earth's crust. Water seeping through soil and rock often dissolves minerals containing Fe and Mn. This process accounts for the origin of these metallic elements in water. When the Fe/Mn-bearing water is exposed to air it undergoes chemical oxidation and changes from colorless, dissolved forms to colored and/or solid forms. Iron in water eventually changes to a reddish-brown material that settles out of the water while Mn forms a black residue. It is these reddish-brown and black sediments that cause stains.
Iron that does not settle out leaves the water with a reddish tint (colloidal iron). Although Mn is usually dissolved in water, some shallow wells or surface waters can retain a black tint. Iron and Mn may also combine with organic materials in water to form chemical complexes that are difficult to remove.
Corrosive water can dissolve Fe present in plumbing pipes. In this case, water is not clear from the tap but contains red particles that settle out after a short time. The pH of the water can and should be raised to prevent dissolution of Fe as well as other metals such as lead (Pb).
The presence of Fe or Mn in water will often cause bacteria that are specific to Fe and Mn to be active. These Fe and Mn bacteria are harmless but are present in many soils, shallow aquifers, and in some surface waters. Masses of these bacteria can clog water systems and form red-brown (iron) or black-brown (manganese) slime in toilet tanks.
Water can be tested for the presence of Mn and Fe. Once detected several treatment options are available. Some of these options include installation of a water softener, aeration (mixing with air), use of a Mn greensand filter, chemical oxidation, or complexation by adding phosphates.
Iron/manganese bacteria may be killed by shock treatments with chlorine or potassium permanganate, then filtered to remove precipitates. If organic-complexed or colloidal Fe/Mn is present in untreated water, a longer contact time and higher chemical levels are necessary for complete oxidation to occur. If your water has high levles of both Fe and Mn, and they are in both dissolved and solid forms, a multistage treatment operation is necessary.
Because of the many and varied treatments available for Fe and/or Mn in
drinking water, accurate testing is important before selecting
treatment equipment. No matter what the treatment, remember to consider
effects of any chemical used in treatement on the remaining treated
(Adapted from Water Treatment Notes, Cornell Cooperative Extension)
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All contents copyright © 1997-2003. College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Idaho. All rights reserved. Revised: January 3, 2003